Urushibara left, so it was just me, Renge, and Tsurube that went to attend the meeting. Well, it’s not like Urushibara would have made much of an impact, anyway. If I had to say who was the most important out of all of us, it would definitely be my boss, Tsurube. With her, I had more strength in negotiations, and she was the one always covering for me.
In this meeting, I just had to carefully refuse the military’s outrageous demands. I always seemed to get stuck doing this sort of job…
The meeting room was packed. Countless number of punks lined up in front of us. They were sitting down on the sofa, on the floor, and even on some tables. On the other hand, we looked like ordinary citizens who had been thrown into a black car and taken to some Yakuza’s headquarters. In any case, dealing with the military meant diving into this kind of atmosphere.
We sat down on a sofa. I was in the middle, with Renge on my right, and Tsurube on my left.
“I humbly apologize for taking up your time,” I said, initiating the conversation. “I have received your request for supplies and came here to discuss more about the logistics of such a request.”
I paused for a moment. “Honestly, the requested supply amount is just too much. It’s too difficult to fulfill.”
“Huuuuuuh?” growled a punk as he stared at me. His hair was all clumped into one long strand, kind of like an old school samurai.
But, I ignored him and continued speaking. “In fact, if you would let us explain, we propose to actually decrease the supplied amount.”
“The hell you talking about man!?!?” shouted the same punk angrily.
Surely they did not expect this response to their demands. The samurai punk got angry at what I just said and viciously kicked the table. Renge instinctively let out a little shriek, and Tsurube frowned as she stared at the samurai with her cold eyes. I myself was actually a little surprised too, but luckily I refrained from crying out.
“We estimated that this amount would be more than adequate,” I explained as I reached out with some documents. “Ah, here we have brought some documents that explain this in detail. Please take a look.”
These documents were very easy to read. They had bar, line, and pie graphs, all labelled thoroughly. These graphs were accompanied by numerous illustrations and pictures, which made them overall very pleasing to the eye. Not many words were written on them as well, so the visual impact was at a maximum.
I took a deep breath. “The line graph here shows the change in military personnel over time, and the bar graph shows our supplied amount. We took a survey in regards to customer satisfaction and represented the results in this pie graph shown here. As you can see, customers are actually extremely satisfied right now. Thus, it’s hard for customer satisfaction to go up even more solely from an increase in supplies. We propose that using the resources instead to push out a new product line would be the most effective way to further customer satisfaction. These pictures and illustrations show what’s currently under development. We also have to keep in mind that according to this data, the number of military personnel has decreased since last term.”
“Huh?” interrupted an arrogant looking blonde girl with a mushroom cut. She was wearing a long skirt and had a sour expression.
But, I ignored her and continued speaking. “On the contrary, if we oversupply now, there will be more problems for the both of us down the road. We certainly do not have a limitless amount of supplies.”
I thought I adequately laid out all my points from the start. Despite that, the samurai and the arrogant looking girl were both deep in thought as they tried to wrap their heads around what I just said. Oh well, I did expect this kind of response.
I heard a “huh” from around me, but I couldn’t tell if it was a sigh or a yawn. I glanced around and saw Renge with her mouth wide open. On the other hand, Tsurube let out a little yawn— she did look pretty bored.
Renge looked at me with such sparkling eyes. “Kasumi, this is my first time seeing you do this kind of talk…” she said, amazed.
“Well, I do talk like this often,” I replied. “At home, or even when I’m alone, you know.”
“He’s not that unreliable,” added Tsurube apathetically. She yawned again. “But I did think it was a bit too long… though it was effective.”
It seemed Tsurube already understood my analysis and explanation. My apologies for the dull content, then… But, it would be great if the people in front of us understood as well.
“What the hell you talkin’ about man! Speak more understandably, dammit!” shouted the samurai punk. He was clearly still confused. He kept on trying to look tough as he shouted some more nonsense.
The girl from earlier randomly took out a cigarette and smoked it. Looking extremely listless, she then exhaled some smoke. Soon, a minty scent diffused across the room. She stroked her hair a bit, glared at me, then started to speak.
“Hey, you. We’re also trying hard here, you know.”
“So as a result we consume a hell lot of calories, right?”
“So we gotta eat.”
“That goes without saying.”
“So you see why this amount is necessary for our members.”
“I see, of course.”
I just nodded in response without denying anything, then shrugged and pretended like I was sorry. As I did, she finished what she had to say and took another smoke.
“Right?” she asked as she grinned at me.
“I understand, I understand,” I agreed, nodding obediently. “So cutting down will be too detrimental to you guys, huh. I see.”
The samurai punk howled with laughter. “Aight! It’s all coo’ if you understand,” he said as he laughed some more. It seems he was satisfied with my responses.
I tensed up and nodded again. “I understand. Thus, we will adjust the amount accordingly.”
“You go do that,” replied the punks.
I stood up. “Now if you’d excuse me…” I said, but I felt something tug at my sleeve. It was Renge.
“Umm… Umm… Kasumi, so… what are you going to do?” she asked, confused. She tilted her head a little bit.
I replied quickly and without hesitation. “Well, our negotiations are over. I won’t decrease the amount.”
But I won’t increase it either.
Well, they looked happy enough with what happened. What’s left was to just get the deliveries over as fast as possible. If any problems arose, I’d just keep on apologizing while simultaneously ignoring what they had to say.
A businessman’s greatest skill was his unwavering heart. No matter what kind of complaints came his way, he’d adequately deal with it. He could mask, or even throw away, his emotions.
Personally, I’m not that good at talking with others. But I could at least plan out what I wanted to say beforehand. I could choose words that fit my needs in any situation and say those words all according to plan. Expressions like amazement, surprise, or worriedness were only just expressions in the end. Even if I had a certain demeanor or acted a certain way, on the inside, I’m always emotionless and indifferent.
Conversation ultimately led to an exchange of feelings. A lot of things go on in it, after all. There were things like trying to figure out other people’s thoughts, trying to avoid saying anything weird, or even making sure eye contact was maintained. People bad at holding conversations felt all sorts of things like disgust, shame, or even hate during a conversation, and they were also constantly worried about other people’s feelings. With all this in mind, it was inevitable that they would begin to hesitate.
But, in business, all this was unnecessary— there was absolutely no need for emotions. By not having any, people could not possibly exchange their feelings to other parties. This then gave them the upper hand in negotiations. In fact, the best business minds were the ones at ease. Likewise, the best business conversations were the ones where both parties were at ease.
But Renge, perhaps not understanding what I did, was unable to move on. “…. Huh? What? Huh? This is okay?” she asked as she showed her confusion.
The other punks started to notice something was up. Like Renge, they started to go, “Huh?” and looked at each other. They thought hard about it and then looked suspiciously at us.
“This is bad…” I thought. The mood had shifted dangerously. If they started to use their fists rather than words in these negotiations, then I’m in big trouble.
“Go on, wrap it up…” muttered Tsurube during all the commotion. She adjusted herself in her seat and looked once again at the group in front of us.
“Then, I’ll go ahead and leave the pending status on the proposal,” I said, quickly following up. “Once we reach a consensus for the new proposal, we will contact you for another meeting.”
They responded hesitantly. “S-Sure…” they mumbled.
I didn’t give them any more time to process all the information I fluently spit out. My carefully chosen words hit them like a wave, and the punks were still very clearly confused. With this, it looked like my work here was done.
“Well then, until next time!” shouted Tsurube as she gave everyone an extraordinarily sweet smile. Her smile, which seemed like a blooming flower, stole everyone’s hearts. Tsurube was surely not the punks’ type, but her pure and innocent smile erased all their suspicions in an instant. They breathed a sigh of relief.
“Things seem to have wrapped up,” she quickly said as she continued speaking. “After this, I have some business with Natsume, so can you please get her for me?”
The samurai punk nodded at her. “A-Ah, sure. We will call her here so wait a sec,” he said, without even having the chance to ask further questions. Maybe due to the fact that there was nothing left to argue about, he was ready to move on.
With a single, “Let’s go!” the punks all stood up. Following his lead, they all left the meeting room one by one while whispering to each other.
“Hey, what does pending mean?”
“It must be that… you know, the thingy in the vending machine.”
“Yeah, that thing you plug into the outlet, right?”
“Wow, you sure are knowledgeable, Sho. Is that why you have a girlfriend?”
“What? No. He said petting, you idiots.”
“Want me to fuck you up?”
“What the hell?”
“You were calling me out, right?”
The punks took any opportunity to fight with each other. They stared each other down so much that veins started to appear on their foreheads. It seemed their discussion was going nowhere.
After they all left the room, Tsurube, still by my side, let out a huge sigh. “Hah… Renge you are too honest,” she exclaimed with an extremely sour look. Her face was scrunched up a little bit. It was certainly a drastic change from her smile earlier.
As I thought… that smile earlier was just for show, wasn’t it? I didn’t know if a smile was an effective weapon for business, but it sure looked like it worked. When things get serious, smile. When things get tough, smile. Perhaps that was the way of business.
“I-I’m sorry. I was just making sure if it was okay…” sighed Renge as she put her head down in shame.
“Well, it’s fine, really,” said Tsurube as she looked at Renge in that sorry state. She then suddenly smiled and said, “I still think it’s one of your good points.” From looks and physicality alone, Renge looked much older, but it was at times like these when Tsurube seemed far more mature.
“T-Thanks…” replied Renge as she shied away. She was still embarrassed. Tsurube nodded adamantly at her.
But, the heartwarming mood suddenly changed as Tsurube glared at me. “And also, Chigusa, don’t lose focus. Saying some outrageous stuff in the beginning to gauge the responses is fine… and even letting them say whatever they want after is also not a bad tactic. Ignoring their responses and just tactically backing down is also fine… but if you want to cause mayhem and confuse them, focus, and do it properly until the end.”
“Okay…” I replied.
She had some fair points, so I wasn’t in any position to refute that. Besides, the way I negotiated in business was the same way I dealt with complaints. I would let them talk until they were satisfied, and then I would hit them with some of my important points. If I took them away from the actual negotiations and gave them a sense of fulfillment for saying what they had wanted to say, then the majority of the people became satisfied with whatever came up. But this time, the situation almost turned dangerous due to my lack of a proper follow up. I was able to go through with it though, thanks to Tsurube.
“My bad, Tsurube. Thanks for helping me out,” I said. Even though I apologized and thanked her, Tsurube still looked unsatisfied. Was there something else she was mad about? I really hope not…
Luckily, she just sighed and said, “Don’t call me Tsurube. It’s Asagao.”
Renge leaned forward. “Yes, yes, it’s Asagao! It’s nice calling her Asagao, you know!” She then leaned even further forward so she could talk to Asagao. She got close… too close.
I tried to move away, but Tsurube was on the other side. Ughh… Too close and too narrow… this is troublesome. But Renge kept on leaning in. She smelled sweet, and soon I could hear her soft and gentle breathing. She also slid a bit on the sofa, so her bare thigh soon touched my knee, and a shiver went up my spine.
She continued. “That’s why… Kasumi… you try calling her Asagao too!”
“Ehhh…” I responded. I knew that Tsurube Asagao was someone who hated being called by her family name, but having said that, it’s still a bit awkward for me to call girls by their first name.
“C’mon, try it!” she said as she playfully pushed me towards Tsurube.
My shoulder bumped into her. “Ah, sorry……. Asagao…” I said hesitantly. After having heard Renge say Asagao so many times, I instinctively called her Asagao as well. As I thought, calling her by her first name was really embarrassing— I could feel myself blushing.
Tsurube blushed as well, almost as if it was contagious. “It’s fine… Don’t worry about it…” she managed to say as she quickly turned her head away. “Keep calling me that…”
Her long hair swayed towards me as a result. I smelled a clear citrus scent, but I didn’t know if it was her shampoo or perfume. What I did know though, was that the scent suited her really well.
“Calling her Asagao is indeed nice, right? It’s cute too!” added Renge. She seemed to enjoy the fact that we were all getting along with each other.
“Well, I guess so…” I said, nodding.
Asagao suddenly turned around. “C-Cu….. Hah? What are you saying??!!?”
Renge was unfazed. “That I think it’s cute?” she responded, playfully tilting her head.
Asagao made a face that I’ve never seen her do before, but after seeing Renge snicker a little bit, she calmed down and started fidgeting with her front bangs. “…..Y-You really think so?” she asked, stuttering.
“I really do!” Renge said. She turned towards me. “Right, Kasumi?”
“Please, please no,” I thought. No matter how I answered that question, things would inevitable get awkward between us. That’s why I tried to give the vaguest reply possible. “… Well, I guess so,” I softly said.
I could talk on end for things that I didn’t really mean. But it’s hard for me to express things that I truly believed in. Underneath my facade, I really was just a shy little boy.